Looking to Living Organisms to Inspire Novel Nanostructures
Living organisms are an endless source of inspiration when it comes to designing nanomaterials that have biotechnological and medical applications. For instance, spider silk and byssus (bundles of filaments) from bivalve molluscs can be transformed from an assembly of proteins into biomaterials with remarkable mechanical and physical properties. Recent studies have also shown that amyloid fibrils (normally soluble proteins that assemble to form insoluble fibers that resist degradation) can perform vital physiological functions in host organisms, opening up the possibility of their use as life-inspired biomaterials and matrices.
Dr. Steve Bourgault, Canada Research Chair in Chemistry of Biological Nanoassemblies, is looking to better understand the molecular mechanisms of protein self-assembly in living organisms. He and his research team are investigating the mechanisms of amyloid formation to manipulate self-assembly and come up with protein supramolecular assemblies. By combining chemical, biophysical and biological approaches, Bourgault and his team aim to design innovative amyloid-based structures for nanomedical applications, including vaccine design and functionalized biomatrices.
Ultimately, Bourgault’s research will contribute to our understanding of the unique structure and function of the relationships of amyloid assemblies, and may uncover potential uses for these nanostructures for both the scientific community and the public at large.